Known as the Terrestrial Artificial Lunar and Reduced Gravity Simulator, or Talaris, the three-foot-wide vehicle is a smaller version of a hopper that would be used in space. It is designed to go about 20 meters per hop; space-based hoppers might cover tens of kilometers--or possibly more--in a single bound. The team that built Talaris wants to use it on Earth to test guidance, navigation, and control software developed by Draper that would allow the space-based hopper to navigate autonomously.
The prototype was developed as part of MIT's effort to win the Google Lunar X Prize, a $30 million competition to get a privately funded spacecraft to reach the moon, travel 500 meters across its surface, and transmit video, images, and other data back to Earth. Both MIT and Draper are members of Next Giant Leap, one of about 20 teams registered in the competition.